technologies that may improve health and safety on construction sites

Emerging technologies assisting the construction industry

According to a BBC article instead of the workforce in high-viz jackets and hard hats (PPE – Personal Protection Equipment), there will be drones buzzing overhead, robotic bulldozers and 3D printers producing all manner of new structures. That at least is the hope of those innovators creating new technological solutions. Firstly they have to get buy-in from the traditionally risk-averse construction industry that such change is beneficial.

Some construction companies are already using drones to survey sites and existing structures. Following the earthquake in Christchurch NZ some years ago, they now use a drone to survey the structure of the badly damaged cathedral, which they hope to rebuild.  Japanese construction machinery giant Komatsu has gone one step further – using the drones to provide the eyes for automated bulldozers. The drones send 3D models of a building site to a computer which then feeds the information to unmanned machinery to guide them.

One of the potential solutions to the housing crisis could also be 3D printing, which is already making an impact on the construction industry – cutting both the time and cost of building houses. The UN estimates that by 2030 approximately three billion people will require housing and has mooted 3D printing as one possible solution. A team in the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University, in the same town as our HQ, has been working on the technology since 2007, first developing a 3D concrete printer within a frame, but more recently with a robotic arm that can print up to 10 time quicker.

At the forefront of technology ourselves Mosaic Management Systems provides health and safety site management software that offers you an online and flexible solution to on boarding, competency management, access control, asset management, stock control, fatigue management and toolbox talks.

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The state of health and safety in global construction – an opportunity for improved PPE policies

According to an article in SHP by Nigel Crunden there has been a considerable increase in major construction projects within the emerging powerhouse economies of the world such as India and China and it is predicted that this will be where global growth emanates from to bring about recovery to the world economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast that 70 per cent of global growth will come from emerging markets over the next decade, with construction playing a considerable part in driving this forward. However, this increase has also highlighted a lack of standardised health and safety policies to protect workers, particularly in the construction sector.

While implementing a global set of health and safety policies are clearly unrealistic, there is some potential in reaching a consensus around key aspects of health and safety in construction, such as PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). Throughout many emerging markets, although health and safety policies include guidelines on PPE, sometimes these are not strongly enforced.

Regardless of the health and safety policy of specific nations, it is vital for individual companies and contractors operating on the ground to drive best practice forward when it comes to site safety. In 2013 alone, India experienced over 11,000 falls from height, many of which could have been prevented through enforcing the constant use of structural protection and, in some cases, PPE.  Falling objects are a key hazard on any construction site and as well as ensuring protective headwear is worn, it is important to guard the feet through advocating the wearing of robust footwear with steel toecaps.

Visibility is crucial within any environment where ongoing construction is taking place, simply due to the high amount of personnel performing different tasks. Hi-vis clothing protects against the risks of not being seen by, for example, an oncoming vehicle. Drivers need to see hazards from further away in order for them to have enough time to react.

Introducing measures around the wearing of PPE certainly isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to completely standardising a formal, global approach to safety. However, it does help address basic health and safety requirements, which, if followed consistently throughout nations that don’t have stipulations within the law, should help in protecting workers to a greater extent than they are at present.

Mosaic Management Systems provide industry safety critical online software to aid on boarding of a workforce, competency checking and record briefings and toolbox talks. We also provide an asset tagging module that could ensure that when PPE is distributed to the workforce it is tracked. This coupled with our toolbox talk module means that the issuing and briefings around any PPE equipment can be recorded against individual records for management scrutiny.

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